Sen. David Argall, R-Berks, said the committee advanced House Bill 2146, sponsored by Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, to move toward final approval before a Jan. 24 deadline set by the Wolf administration, but he cautioned negotiations on the specifics are ongoing and likely will result in changes.
“This does not mean this map will be the final version to be sent to the governor,” Argall, the committee chair, said Tuesday after the committee advanced the map.
“Bipartisan negotiations have been ongoing … in hopes that we can reach a compromise that can be agreed to by a majority of all four caucuses, signed by the governor, approved by the courts, which has been our shared goal since this process began it seems like 10 years ago,” Argall said.
Argall laid out the General Assembly’s public engagement process for creating the new congressional districts, which involved more than a dozen public meetings, as well as constitutional requirements for the maps.
States redraw state and federal legislative maps every decade using updated census data to ensure fair representation, though the process is contentious and often rife with gerrymandering aimed at giving an advantage to one political party or the other.
The far-left Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2018 rejected a map approved in 2011 by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and executive branch for leaning in favor of Republicans.
The replacement map ultimately gave Democrats more seats in that year’s midterm election, helping them to reclaim the US House of Representatives and wage multiple impeachment attacks on then-President Donald Trump.
Lawmakers vowed a more transparent process this time around to avoid similar issues—though Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf can veto any map approved by the General Assembly.
The House State Government Committee selected the congressional district map in HB 2146, created by Lehigh County resident Amanda Holt, from 19 submitted by the public and made changes before it was approved by the full House last week.
Wolf has aired numerous grievances with the legislation and offered examples of what he views as better maps, while activist lawsuits are already pending that ask the Commonwealth Court to intervene in the process.
Sen. Katie Muth, D-Royersford, questioned Tuesday why the committee was moving the legislation to the full Senate when it contained “prison gerrymandering” or alleged efforts to manipulate districts using state prisoners.
“The short answer is because this is the only bill that has been read across the desk three constitutional days, so if we’re going to hit the deadline, which is Monday, we needed to use a bill that has already received at least three days,” Argall said.
Argall assured Muth that “everything is still on the table” for potential changes.
Pennsylvania law requires both chambers of the General Assembly to consider legislation on three days before approval.
HB 2146 ultimately moved out of committee on a party line vote of 7-4.
“I appreciate our keeping the process moving, we are in continued negotiations,” Street said. “With that being said, the current map that House Republicans have advanced is not something that I can support … but I appreciate the spirit in which we are moving forward.”
Argall said he plans to hold a final public meeting on the legislation “later this week”—the 14th in the current legislative session.
Headline USA’s Ben Sellers contributed to this report.